Deuteronomy 19-21

Sunday Evening Bible Study

September 16, 2001


The name Deuteronomy means “second law”. It is Moses’ final address to the people. It covers the last 1˝ months of Moses’ life.  He’s 120 years old.  It’s God’s “review” for the people to make sure they understand His ways before they go into the land.

Deuteronomy 19

:1-13  Manslaughter/Cities of Refuge

:2  separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land

These are the cities of refuge.

They had already set up three cities of refuge on the eastern side of the Jordan River: Golan, Ramoth Gilead, and Bezer.

When they came across the Jordan and conquered the rest of the land, they were to set up three more cities:  Kedesh, Shechem, and Kiraith Arba.

This was to stop the “blood feuds” that developed in these ancient times. 

If you killed a relative of mine, even if it was an accident, I would be bound by my family’s honor to kill you.  The killings went back and forth.  Instead, when a person was killed by accident, they were allowed to flee to the nearest city of refuge (never more than a good day’s run away). As long as it was truly an accident (determined by a trial), then you were allowed to stay there and be protected from the “blood avenger”, which was a member of the dead person’s family.

:6  the avenger of the blood

This was the person in the family who was sent to kill you if you accidentally killed a member of their family.

:6  while his heart is hot

If there weren’t any hot heads in the world, something like this wouldn’t be necessary.  It’s our anger that gets us into trouble.


Anger is a dangerous thing.

(James 1:19-20 KJV)  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: {20} For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
In his autobiography, Number 1, Billy Martin told about hunting in Texas with Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who would let them hunt on his ranch. When they reached the ranch, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend.  Mantle’s friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Mickey a favor. He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind, and he didn’t have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him.
When Mickey came back to the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door. Billy asked him what was wrong, and Mickey said his friend wouldn’t let them hunt. “I’m so mad at that guy,” Mantle said, “I’m going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules!”  Mantle drove like a maniac to the barn. Martin protested, “We can’t do that!”  But Mickey was adamant. “Just watch me,” he shouted.
When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside, and shot the mule. As he was leaving, though, he heard two shots, and he ran back to the car. He saw that Martin had taken out his rifle, too.  “What are you doing, Martin?” he yelled. Martin yelled back, face red with anger, “We’ll show that son of a gun! I just killed two of his cows!” 
Anger can be dangerously contagious. As Proverbs puts it, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man ... or you may learn his ways” (Prov. 22:24-25).
What do we do with anger?

Thomas Jefferson said “When angry, count to 10; when very angry count to 100.”  Mark Twain changed it and said, “When angry, count to 4; when very angry, swear.”

Paul wrote,

(Eph 4:26-32 KJV)  Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: {27} Neither give place to the devil. {28} Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. {29} Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. {30} And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. {31} Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: {32} And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

It’s not a matter of learning to count, swearing, or breaking things, it’s a matter of learning to put anger away and learning to do the kind things.  It’s learning not to hold on to bitterness, but to deal with the anger.

I think that as our nation faces the tragedy of the recent terrorist attacks; we need to guard ourselves from the foolishness of responding purely in anger.  It will get us into trouble.

:11  if any man hate his neighbour

Premeditated murder.  A murderer was not allowed refuge.  The trial would take place in the city of refuge.

:12  deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood,

In this case, the avenger of blood was allowed to actually put the person to death, when they were already proven guilty.

:14  Property borders

:14  Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark

This is another way of saying that you can’t steal your neighbor’s land.  Boundaries would be determined by record of certain landmarks.  If you moved the big rock at the corner of the property to make your farm bigger, you were guilty.

:15-21 Witnesses/False witnesses

:15  One witness shall not rise up

We follow this rule of law today.  It takes more than one witness to convict a person.

:18  the judges shall make diligent inquisition

Make sure of the facts when you make a decision.  Don’t make decisions based on hearsay.  Be careful about believing gossip.

:19  ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother

If he accused you of murder, and claims to have witnessed you doing it, but he’s found lying, then he must pay the penalty.

:20  those which remain shall hear, and fear,

The punishment of crime ought to strike fear into the heart of the potential criminal and act as a deterrent.

:21  life shall go for life

This was intended to be the rule of punishment for civil law. (see also Lev. 24:20)

This is known as the “law of retaliation”, lex talionis, provided for exact justice, not revenge, and concerned public justice, not private vengeance.

Deuteronomy 20

:1-4  Rules for War – heart preparation

:1  be not afraid of them


The size of your fear is related to the size of your God.

It’s not like we intentionally forget how big God is, but it seems that the more we focus on the size of our problems, the less we are aware of the size of our God.
When Jehoshaphat was surrounded by an overwhelming force of enemy armies, he was scared,
(2 Chr 20:3-6 KJV)  And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. {4} And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. {5} And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, {6} And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?

Jehoshaphat’s prayer starts with talking about how powerful God is, not because God needs reminding, but because Jehoshaphat needs reminding.

:3  let not your hearts faint, fear not

It was the priests’ job to be comforting and encouraging the people.  It was their job to help the people be trusting in God for victory.  Today, in America, we believers in Jesus are the “priests” (Rev. 1:6).

:5-9  Rules for War – recruiting an army

:5  the officers shall speak unto the people

Even though all the fighting age men were to be a part of the army, not everyone ought to be fighting.  This was to be the procedure to make sure the army was a strong fighting machine.

:6 is he that hath planted a vineyard,

This exemption of not having tasted of the fruit of your vineyard could last up to five years (Lev. 19:23-25).

:7  what man is there that hath betrothed a wife

I’ve heard this used as a reason for newlyweds to pull back from ministry.

I couldn’t disagree more.  Unless that is if your ministry could actually cause you to die as a battle might.  One of my greatest concerns for newlyweds is that they often tend to drop out of church to “work on their marriage”.  Please don’t misunderstand me here, marriages do require work.  But I personally think that being involved in a ministry would only enhance a marriage, not hurt it.

:8  What man is there that is fearful

Those that were fearful were supposed to stay out of the battle.

Fear is contagious.  Be careful that you don’t catch it!


Fear makes a weak army.

God’s desire is that fearful ones stay home.  If they don’t then their fear will spread to the rest of the army and there will be disaster.
We see this actually done in one battle.
(Judg 7:1-3 KJV)  Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. {2} And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. {3} Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.

The army is eventually whittled down to 300 men, and because God is in it, and because there is no fear, they are victorious.

If you are a person who is motivated by fear, be careful that you don’t let your fears become a discouragement to others in the battle.
Instead, God’s desire is that you overcome your fears.

(Psa 34:4 KJV)  I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.


Don’t manipulate people.

There are times when we could twist people’s arms into doing things.  We can make them feel guilty and try to get them to do what we think they ought to do.
But the danger is that you’ll fill your army with weak soldiers.
If you are going to war and there are not enough men in the army, either God’s going to do a Jonathan kind of work (saving by many or by few, 1Sam.14), or else perhaps you’re in the wrong battle.

:10-15 Rules for war – engaging the distant enemy

:15 unto all the cities which are very far off

The cities that were surrounding the land of Israel were to be treated differently than the cities that would be occupied.

The distant cities were to be offered peace first.  If the peace was accepted, then the city would become a tributary to Israel, paying taxes, and becoming servants to Israel. If the peace was rejected, then the city was to be destroyed.

This is similar to what happened with the inhabitants of Gibeon (Josh 9). 

The inhabitants of Gibeon were living in the Promised Land, but when they heard about the Israelites, they decided to try and make a peace treaty with them.  They sent messengers to the Israelites dressed in ragged clothes and carrying stale bread.  They told the Israelites that they were from a far country and that they wanted to make a peace treaty with Israel.
(Josh 9:14 KJV)  And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.
As a result, Israel made a treaty with them, even though they shouldn’t have.  These people were part of the ones that God had pronounced judgment upon, yet because of their treaty with them, they were unable to follow through.  As a result, the Gibeonites became a kind of sore spot to the Israelites and caused them trouble for years to come.


Pray for wisdom in applying God’s Word.

Sometimes things seem like simple decisions to us.  We get to thinking that we don’t need to bother God with such details.  We always need His help!

:16-20  Rules for war – engaging the near enemy

:18 That they teach you not to do after all their abominations,

The cities that would be occupied in the land of Israel were to all be wiped out.

We have a hard time with this until we begin to understand that there was more here than just Israel finding a new home.

It’s important to remember that one of God’s main purposes in bringing Israel into this land was in order to bring judgment upon these seven nations.  Their sins had become too great and it was time to judge them.  Israel was to be God’s hand of judgment.


God is concerned that you don’t learn the world’s ways.

Sometimes we think that the Israelites were asked to get a little too radical in the way they were deal with things.  But in reality, God is just as serious about us following Him and not the world.
(1 John 2:15-17 KJV)  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. {16} For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. {17} And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Jesus said,

(Mat 5:27-30 KJV)  Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: {28} But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. {29} And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. {30} And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Jesus isn’t trying to teach us to mutilate ourselves.  He’s making a very strong point to say that we ought to be willing to do whatever is necessary to stop our sin.
You can usually judge how serious a person is about their sin by seeing how far they are willing to go to correct things.

When a unmarried couple is living together and they begin to realize that this isn’t pleasing to God, I’m curious to hear how they respond to that information. 

“Oh, we can’t afford to live in separate apartments”.  Can you afford to keep in your present situation?

When a person finds themselves hooked on drugs or alcohol and they come to the end of their rope, sometimes I’ll suggest they think about going to a rehab place like the ranch out at U-Turn.

“I don’t think I could afford to spend two months like that” or, “I don’t think I could handle living in conditions like that”.  Can you afford to keep your addiction?  I’m not saying that a place like U-Turn is the only answer, but I am curious to hear just how far a person is willing to make themselves uncomfortable in order to deal with their sin.

:19 thou shalt not destroy the trees

This was a common practice among conquering powers, destroying the fruit trees so as to totally conquer a land.  But Israel was to keep the fruit trees because they were going to live there.

Deuteronomy 21

:1-9 Unsolved Homicides

:1  If one be found slain in the land

A murder has been committed. 

:2  Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain:

The city closest to the body will be the one responsible for the following ritual.

:4  which is neither eared nor sown,

(Deu 21:4 NLT)  They must lead it to a valley that is neither plowed nor planted with a stream running through it. There they must break the cow's neck.

The Jews didn’t take this to mean a valley that had never been plowed before, but that it would be a valley that would never be plowed again.  In fact, they were to take a plot of land that was currently being used for farmland and once the ritual was performed, the land was to never be used again.  The rabbis taught that this was to help encourage the people to pay closer attention to goings on so that there would be no murderers running loose.  If another unsolved murder took place, more land would have to be lost from usability.

:4  strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:

The heifer gave its life in a demonstration that something worthy of death had occurred.

:6  wash their hands over the heifer

washing hands – a demonstration of their innocence in the matter.

:9  So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you


Sin pollutes the land

I tend to think that we as a nation have no concept of this.
For some reason, when a murder occurs, there always seems to be a group of people who are trying to protect the murderer.
There’s a sense as with Abel’s blood, that the blood cries out for justice:
(Gen 4:8-10 KJV)  And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. {9} And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? {10} And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
As I mentioned this morning, with 30 million abortions having been performed in America over the last thirty years, could it be that our land is a bit “polluted” in God’s eyes?  I believe so.

:10-14 Family rules - marrying a conquered people

:11  And seest among the captives a beautiful woman

This could not be a gal from one of the cities of Canaan, it would have to be one of the cities that were far away.  It was against the Law for an Israelite to marry an Canaanite (Deut.7:1-4).

This was contrary to standard accepted practice for soldiers in ancient days.  Typically, a soldier would pillage and rape.  The Israelites were commanded to marry.

:12  she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;

Ladies, aren’t you glad you didn’t have to prepare for your wedding like this?

Actually, the cutting of hair, nails, etc. was a way of her cutting herself from her old way of life, preparing her to become an Israelite.

:13  bewail her father and her mother a full month

A guy had to wait a month to marry her.  Especially if her hair had been cut off, it would help him think twice to make sure he wasn’t just marrying her for her good looks.

:14  then thou shalt let her go whither she will

The assumption is that they would divorce.

This again would be a little different from what other cultures of the day would do.  Other cultures wouldn’t think twice of selling the woman into slavery.  In Israel, she was to be a freed woman.

:15-17  Family rules – children of multiple wives

:15  If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated

The problem of “two wives”.

Be careful that you don’t think that the Bible is condoning the practice of having multiple wives.  Some people in the Bible practiced polygamy, but God doesn’t advocate it. 

In fact, when Jesus was addressing the problem of divorce, He made it clear that the pattern had always been for there to be one man and one woman:
(Mat 19:3-6 KJV)  The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? {4} And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, {5} And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? {6} Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

God didn’t give Adam two wives, He gave him one.

What God is going to deal with here is not the problem of having multiple wives, but a related problem of dealing with the children of these multiple wives.

Just because people aren’t following God’s design for them doesn’t mean that they don’t have other related issues that need to be addressed.

In a way, what we read here could probably be applied in some extent to what we call “blended families”, where a husband and wife have been divorced, remarried, and there are children from the various marriages all living together.

:16 before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

You weren’t supposed to play favorites with the kids according to who their mother was.

Jacob got into a lot of trouble in his family because this is what he had done.

(Gen 37:3-4 KJV)  Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. {4} And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
Though he had twelve sons, he had also had four wives and only two of the sons were the offspring of his “beloved” wife, Rachel.  The eldest, Joseph, was treated differently than his older brothers.  And as a result, he was also hated by his older brothers.  It was this hatred of Joseph that led to them selling Joseph into slavery into Egypt.


Be careful about playing favorites with the kids.

I know that we can get a little carried away with this.  There are times when one child will complain that we only spent $5.55 on them while we spent $5.95 on another child.  I think that a good way to handle this is to explain to your children that sometimes life is going to be unfair.  Period.
But when one child is constantly being favored over another, there’s going to be major problems in the family. 
One of today’s typical setups for disaster is that of the “blended family”.  This is where you are living with step kids and your own kids.  The tendency I’ve seen is that your own kids can tend to be the favorites.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

:17  But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn

It was the commonly accepted thing in those days that the firstborn would receive a double portion of the inheritance.  Rather than break that understood custom because the son was a child of a “hated” wife, you were to follow through with what was proper in that culture.


Kids shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of the parents.

Some of you are in situations where your spouse has children from a previous marriage.  You need to be careful to value those children as much as if they were your own.  It’s not the kid’s fault who his/her parents are.  God has given you a portion of the responsibility of raising that child.  Give them all you’ve got.

:18-21 Family rules – a rebellious son

:18  when they have chastened him,

This isn’t a situation where the parents haven’t learned how to discipline their children.  This was in a situation where the parents have been applying discipline, but the child was still rebellious.

:19  bring him out unto the elders of his city

The parents weren’t supposed to make the final decisions about this child, they were to leave it in the hands of the elders.

:21  And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die:

Jewish tradition has it that this punishment was never actually carried out.  I guess the threat of it was enough.  I wonder if this is why there is a commandment with a promise:

(Exo 20:12 KJV)  Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.


Parents, take control.

There are too many parents who are letting their children call the shots.  God has entrusted THEM to YOU.  You are to be the one in charge.
They may have learned how to manipulate you, berate you, calling you names, making you feel insecure, but YOU are still THEIR parent.
For those of you with younger children, respect for parents is nothing to take lightly.  I know that it’s hard to be the one disciplining your children when they’ve called you a name or yelled at you.  You feel selfish.  You feel like a jerk.  But it’s far worse to let your child go through life thinking that it’s okay to rebel against authority and to mock it.  It’s far better for your child to learn NOW that they need to respect authority, rather than have to face harder consequences later.

:22-23  Capital punishment and defiling the land

:22  thou hang him on a tree:

This was not the mode of punishment, as in death by hanging.  This was after the criminal was put to death, the body was to be hung on a tree as a way of making a public statement that this was what would happen to those who committed a similar crime.

:23  (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)

Paul applies this verse to Jesus:

(Gal 3:13 KJV)  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: